Pets more part of the family than ever before

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Pet lovers now think nothing of kissing the dog goodbye before leaving for work, sharing a bath with their pet - and facetiming the cat, according to a study.

Researchers found an increasing number of pet owners are treating their animals like relatives as they turn to them for company and comfort amid the stresses and strains of modern life.

It also emerged nearly one in five cat owners get up early to serve their pet breakfast, while 40 per cent of dog owners take their canine companion to bed with them at night.

Other cat lovers admitted asking a friend or relative who is minding their pet to call them at work - so they can hear their cat purr.

Commissioned by Lily's Kitchen pet food, the poll of 2,000 dog and cat owners also found one third have let their pet into the toilet at the same time as them or shared a BATH with their pet

And one in four have confided with their animals about their personal problems.

Normal behaviour

And 66 per cent said they believed this behaviour was 'totally normal’ - with nine in 10 owners claiming they 'don't care' what other people think of their relationships with their animals.

Commenting on the research, Dr Deborah Wells, an animal psychologist based at Queen's University of Belfast said: "This research highlights the intensity of owners' attachments to their dogs and cats and the lengths some people go to to ensure their pets' needs are not only catered for, but, in many cases, exceeded.

"The acceptance by wider society that our pets are an integral part of the family unit has made it easier to indulge in our dogs and cats.

''And it has enabled us to do things with our pets such as taking them out to dinner, that several years ago simply wouldn't have been possible.

"As a social species, we are programmed to seek out relationships with others, human or otherwise.

''The infantile features common to dogs and cats, such as their big eyes and clumsy movements, can trigger care-giving behaviour.

"This may explain some of the findings of the research, notably why we treat dogs and cats in much the same way as our children; we have simply evolved to love and care for soft, helpless things, human or otherwise."

One sick puppy

The survey also found around one fifth of owners kiss their pet on the lips and 15 per cent have taken time off work because their cat or dog was poorly.

Others have let their animals choose what to watch on TV and read books to them, while one in four think nothing of taking their dog to the pub with them.

Thirty-four per cent refer to themselves as their pet's 'mummy' or 'daddy' and three in ten sign their animal's name in birthday cards.

Amid this, the research found a third admit other people find their close relationship with their animals 'odd'.

However 85 per cent believe only other pet owners can really understand the bond between a human and their animal.

More than six in ten admitted they are closer to their pet than they are to some of their family members.

Family animals

Ninety-six per cent of those polled were in no doubt their pet is a member of the family and nine in ten said they are 'irreplaceable'.

Henrietta Morrison, CEO and founder of Lily's Kitchen said: "Brits are renowned for being a nation of pet lovers and this research reinforces just how much our pets are family members and such an integral part of our lives.

"It lifts the lid on what some might perceive to be crazy or loopy behaviour, but what pet parents will relate to and know stems from love."

The research was commissioned to coincide with the pet food company's first ever advertising campaign, 'It's not loopy, it's love' which is a playful celebration of all the things we do out of love for our pets.

It highlights family behaviours only pet owners understand, from eating Sunday lunch together and choosing only dog friendly restaurants, to being slaves to our cats, whether that's serving breakfast at 4am or sacrificing our furniture for theirs.

For more information visit: www.lilyskitchen.co.uk